Somalia: AMISOM seeks to 'mop up' latent Al Shabaab terror threat
The Africa Repor
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
A leading figure in the African Union (AU) has claimed that its mission in Somalia (AMISOM) is working more closely with the country's national army (SNA) to eradicate the threat of Al Shabaab.
Captain Robert Kamara admits that the terror group's use of asymmetrical tactics such as suicide bombs and IEDs (improvised explosive devices) are proving tough to counter.
But Kamara claims that his forces' biggest task is empowering Somalis to expose the latent terror threat from within their own ranks, as Al Shabaab's militants were being driven further underground."We are putting out a joint operation with the SNA and AMISOM to do mop-up operations of places where these guys hide," says Kamara.
"The people who suffer the most through this kind of warfare are the innocent civilians.
"It is our duty to inform, to empower and expose the local people to the dangers they face if they don't volunteer information."
Al Shabaab has seen its political and military influence wane in Somalia since AMISOM's creation and deployment in 2007.
But despite deadly infighting, sporadic attacks have continued to target high-profile complexes in Mogadishu and beyond this year, claiming dozens of lives.
The terror group now has an estimated 5,000 soldiers, down from 16,000 six years ago.
"Right now the odds are not in favour of Al Shabaab," says Kamara.
"The situation now is different, and Al Shabaab cannot do the things they once did.
"The biggest weapon we have is to empower the government to use its machinery, to expose the weaknesses of Al Shabaab."
AMISOM now boasts over 17,000 potential troops from a pool of African countries including Uganda, Kenya and Burundi.
It has scored several key victories against Islamist militant groups this year, including the arrest of veteran fighter Hassan Dahir Aweys, and the deaths of high-profile leaders such as Ibrahim al-Afghani, who died in a gunfight in June.
Yet analysts concede that Al Shabaab still holds a significant, if quiet, sway among young men in Somalia.
And reports of recruitment within the country, and infiltration into army ranks, has led to AMISOM's renewed interest in reaching out to the public.
"The locals know these guys," says Kamara. "They just need opportunities."